Cuomo Admin Makes Small First Move to Improve Transit on Tappan Zee

In addition to two shoulders in each direction, plans for the new Tappan Zee Bridge include "emergcncy access" lanes, an unheard of feature on new bridges. The Cuomo administration now says the emergency lanes can be used for rush hour bus service. Click to enlarge.

Last night Hudson Valley commuters got their first taste of good news when it comes to building transit across the Tappan Zee Bridge. As reported by the Journal News’ Khurram Saeed, the Cuomo administration now says it will allow buses to use the “emergency access” lanes it intends to build on both spans of the new Tappan Zee Bridge, though only during rush hour.

Letting buses run in the emergency lanes would be an easy and essentially cost-free way to make bus rides across the bridge a little faster. The emergency lanes will be built in addition to full-width shoulders on both sides of traffic, a feature unheard of on other major new bridges. All that space is primed to be converted either into bus lanes or more room for cars.

Advocates for Tappan Zee transit applauded the decision, but said it isn’t a substitute for real bus rapid transit along the corridor. “It’s an important step in the right direction,” Rockland County Executive C. Scott Vanderhoef told the Journal News. Vanderhoef had previously proposed running buses in the extra lanes.

In a statement Tri-State Transportation Campaign Executive Director Veronica Vanterpool said this should be the start of further accommodations for transit from the Cuomo administration:

This is an important first step, and a small victory, to improve bus commutes for hundreds of existing daily bus riders who idle in gridlock along with cars and trucks. Disappointingly, the dedicated bus lane will only be in operation on the bridge itself, not within the I-287 corridor, and only during rush hour…

Modern buses, new signal technology, off-board fare collection, and dedicated bus lanes—the key elements of a bus rapid transit system—speed bus commutes and incentivize people to ride the system. Without these combined amenities, bus riders will not benefit from an improved system, only brief congestion relief while crossing the bridge. Commuters and residents have indicated they want more.

Streetsblog has been corresponding with the governor’s press office about the use of these emergency lanes for transit service, the possibility of extending bus lanes on either side of the bridge, and a number of other design issues. Next week, we hope to be able to provide more information about how allowing buses to use these lanes fits into the broader goal of building a full bus rapid transit system.